In every form of communication, it is essential to remember that it isn’t just the text that matters. There is always context and subtext to consider — because without that, the actual intent of the communication can be lost.

Such is the case with many biblical phrases. There are two that call for highlighting.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The first is Jeremiah 29:11, one of the most quoted phrases in the entire Bible: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. It’s a wonderful saying — one that Vice President Mike Pence personally treasures — and it seems to imply so much. It suggests that the Lord has your day all mapped out on His iPhone and is transmitting everything to you. Even better, it almost sounds like the Lord has a very special surprise for you later on — so get ready!

Unfortunately, that’s really not what the phrase is about. Jeremiah 29 is a letter from the prophet of the same name to some of the most important people who had been forced into exile after Nebuchadnezzar invaded. It literally tells all those who had to go to Babylon to settle down: get married, build houses, plant gardens, have kids, and populate.

Then we come to verse 11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Further on, the prophet says they’ll be in Babylon for 70 years, and then they’ll return.

Thus, we see the verse placed in its proper context.

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It’s also worth applying this to modern day, to both Jews and non-Jews alike. Some interpret this passage to be about patience. We are often placed in medium-to-long term situations that are disagreeable. Rather than despair, the chapter urges us not to just sit and accept our plight, but to effectively embrace it, grow within it, nurture ourselves, and in the end, the situation will come to an end — but we will not have remained stagnant.

Luke 11:9 is another often misinterpreted phrase: “Ask and it shall be given you.” Sorry, folks, but the Lord is not a wish-vending machine. It would certainly be nifty were that the case. There are many kids who have always wanted a pony.

Luke 11 is actually a vital chapter, as one of Christ’s disciples sees him praying and asks, “Lord, teach us to pray” (11:1). Christ instructs them and offers a parable, which is often known as the “The Importunate Friend.”

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A man goes to his neighbor late at night, asking to borrow three loaves of bread, because a friend has arrived at his home but there is nothing to feed him. The neighbor, however, tells him to go away because it’s late and he’s already in bed.

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Since Domino’s Pizza didn’t deliver back then — what was the man to do? Christ tells him with absolute certainty that, even though the man turned him away, just watch — because he will give you what requested.

Then we come to the relevant passage: “And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

That is, pray. Have faith. Most importantly, the message is also long-term in nature. Christ counsels us to ask, seek, and then knock. We can’t just ask for help. We have to seek, to search, to use the insight the Lord gives us to direct us.

Once we have found our destination, we knock against whatever barrier may be there, so that we may pass through it and receive what we have asked and desired.